Sliced bread is so great because it's hard to make a sandwich out of an unsliced loaf of bread. I suppose you could just use a roll, but that's not the point, is it?

Is it sliced bread if you have to slice it yourself? Well, if you make your own bread, you probably slice it yourself. If you've tried this, then you really know why sliced bread is so great! It's difficult to slice it by hand and get the slices even, even with practice. And uneven slices don't toast very well, unless you like one side more burned or less toasted than the other.

So, I'd say, what makes sliced bread so great is 1) a machine did it instead of you, and 2) it's an even, uniform thickness slice.

Then again, maybe I'm just lazy and don't like to slice my bread. Some day, perhaps I'll buy myself a bread slicing machine.

 

Update: My exuberant thanks to simonc who has confirmed and fully explained my suspicions!! I'd like to add that sliced bread not only goes stale faster (which wrapping helps), but also goes bad faster, which wrapping does not help. Innovations (and their problems) will never cease!

I'd also like to thank lj for his excellent manual slicing advise, all of which I've always followed; however, one important thing is left out. You can follow all of those tips, and none will help you make a nice slice of bread nearly as much as many repetitions of practice. Just knowing how to do it is not good enough to get those nice even slices -- it's just not easy!

How sliced bread was invented

The inventor of the bread-slicing machine was Otto Frederick Rohwedder, of Iowa, USA, who delivered the invention in the year 1928, sixteen years after his first prototype in 1912.

The first prototype machines were not well received by bakers, who told Rohwedder that his invention was useless, as sliced bread would too quickly go stale. These early rejections caused the inventor to seek a solution that would deliver the convenience of pre-sliced bread that stayed as fresh as whole loaves. Several failed attempts at a solution were made, including one scheme that used hat pins to keep the slices together.

The concept that was ultimately successful was the 1928 version -- a machine that neatly sliced the loaves into uniform slices and wrapped the freshly-sliced loaf in waxed paper, which kept moisture, and therefore freshness in the loaf.

A bakery in Battle Creek, Michigan, was the world's first vendor of sliced bread, being Rohwedder's first customer for his invention. The baker's success led Rohwedder to display his bread-slicing-and-wrapping machine at trade fairs, and by 1930 the first large commercial machines were in use in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the UK, the innovative bread product was launched under the Wonderbread brand.

The invention of the automatic toaster, in the earlier year of 1919, now came into its full glory, with easy and universal access to pre-sliced breads.

Americans embraced sliced bread, toast consumption skyrocketed, and by 1933 over 80% of bread sold in the USA was pre-sliced and wrapped. The phrase The best thing since sliced bread was coined at this time.

In the year 1943, the US Secretary of Agriculture banned the sale of sliced bread, in an effort to hold down prices of the important staple food during wartime rationing. The ban was lifted, of course, at the conclusion of World War II.

RESEARCH SOURCES INCLUDE THE CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, THE (UK) FEDERATION OF BAKERS, PLANET WHEAT, THE NEW YORK TIMES SUNDAY MAGAZINE.

Slicing bread is one of these deceptively difficult tasks. Any time you see someone slice bread, it's all over in a few strokes, and each beautiful slice is of the same uniform thickness. You try it yourself, and your 'slices' are wedge-shaped, ragged and crumpled. What went wrong?

Firstly, you need a bread knife. It's possible to cut bread with other styles of knives, but without a serrated edge, the bread will get squished. If the knife is not long enough, it won't cut all of the bread, and the edges will be all ragged. Your knife should be at least twice as long as the width of loaf you're cutting. Some carving knives work, if they have the length and serration, but be careful with the sharp, pointed tip. You're going to be cutting all the way to whatever surface the bread is resting on, so use a chopping board to avoid damaging it. If possible, use a non-slip one, as you will be excerting a quite a lot of horizontal force on the knife.

  • To get a good cut without crushing the bread, instead of using downward force, use back and forth movement of the blade to cut the bread. The serrations of the blade will cut through the fibres of the bread, without compressing them downwards. Cutting through the crusts on the top and bottom takes more pressure than the rest of the slice, but don't get carried away.
  • To avoid tearing the edges, make sure the tip of the knife always stays outside the loaf. To make good use of the knife, aim to push the knife forwards until there is an inch of blade between the bread and the handle, and to draw the knife backwards until there is an inch of tip protruding from the bread. If the tip enters the loaf, instead of cutting the crust, it will push it outwards, tearing it and leaving a ragged edge.
  • To get straight slices instead of wedges, pay attention to the angle of the knife. If the blade is held at an angle off vertical, the slice will not come out straight. No matter how much downwards pressure is applied to the knife, it will always make a cut parallel to the blade.

Be gentle, use a good sawing motion, and make sure to hold your blade upright, and you too can impress onlookers with your perfect slices!

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